Review 2010: The Opinion Engine: 21/31: My Year In Magazines.

Magazines Some magazines you buy simply because they're consistently good and that's the case with BBC Music and SFX Magazine. For different reasons. The former continues to suggest some of my listening habits and has simply been very consistent across the year not having changed much editorially since its inception (and I should know). A couple of months back they collated fifty of their composer biographies in a special, the essential works sections of which are a useful way of dipping into an ouvre -- though I'm still unconvinced by Messian. SFX retains its sense of fun and history and its chameleon-like ability to shift its tone depending upon which area of the genre is in the ascendency. This month Primevil is on the cover and there's a definite sense of shifting back towards British sci-fi because of the many genre cancellations in the US. The Spoiler Zone also still proves invaluable for sniffing whether a series is worth being patient with though it does feel too late now to be starting on Smallville and Supernatural.

My love and hate relationship with Empire continued through 2010. To an extent it's become rather redundant in the face of the web but there’s no denying that it still retains a certain standard in relation to set access and has some excellent archival features, the twisty turny interviews with the masters of horror (Landis, Carpenter and Dante) especially entertaining. My problem lately has been with its unwillingness to engage or criticise the film industry in ways which it so effortlessly did in the past, really questioning how the more commercial end of the market is changing. Their argument is that they need to sell magazines and that putting Harry Potter on the cover rather than Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone adds several thousand sales; I’d counter that by suggest if Empire really cared about film, it would be publicising some of the smaller releases as well as joining the Potter marketing machine.

In other words, do for commercial cinema what Sight and Sound does for everything else. Last month they put director Apichatpong Weerasethakul on the cover and inside had a page long review of the late Arthur Penn’s comedy Penn & Teller Get Killed. Which is astonishing. Having also refocused itself in recent years to cover international cinema and smaller releases in even greater detail, S&S will become vitally important as governmental changes are brought to its publisher, the BFI, with editor Nick James and columnist Nick Roddick well placed to comment on what it means for production in this country. S&S also supports the BFI Southbank’s seasons and these articles have proved invaluable as I’ve followed their curatorial choices through Lovefilm. The undoubted highlight though has been their coverage of Metropolis's restoration, the process and the effects its had on how view the narrative and Lang's intentions.

The Christmas Radio Times was late to visit the north again this year but that only went to increase the sense of anticipation. Though other listings magazines are available, there’s something particularly authoritative about the most expensive, especially in its eagerness to highlight the digital stations ahead of the soaps and more populist fare. Mad Men even appeared on the cover for the new series launch on BBC Four. One major disappointment has been the redesign of the listings which have pushed some of the non-primetime, and so more interesting, elements of the schedule literally to the margins and so it's easier to miss some good bit of old Hollywood on daytime tv. Given the title of the magazine makes it the journal of record and the popularity of the medium, the squeezing of the radio coverage too is an area for concern; much as I enjoy Eddie Mair’s column it does leave even less room for publicising content across the channels.

Doctor Who Magazine has gone from strength to strength in 2010 due to the decision by the latest editor, Tom Spilsbury, to take a more wide-ranging approach to the franchise and being just as likely to run material on the classic series as the new (in keeping of the approach of the series under Moffat which has been replete with back references). That’s resulted in some superb retrospective interviews with the likes of Sylvester McCoy and Tom Baker that have still, somehow, after all these issues managed to find something new to talk about, especially the extent to which their public and private faces differ. The year’s triumph was a soap special that appropriated the design of Inside Soap Magazine and featured a wonderful piece by (until recently resident reviewer) Graham Kibble-White and Chris Hughes from the website TV Cream.

Around The Globe is DWM for Shakespeare fans. Almost. Published seasonally by the Shakespeare Globe Trust, the bulk of the magazine contains background articles supporting the theatre’s latest season with academics writing accessibly about their thematic or historical details, with a review section at the back highlighting important new publications. It’s well worth the £12 per year subscription as it stands, but what I’d really like and in my dreams would really like to edit, is a proper glossy news stand magazine dedicated to the bard, with features on new productions across tv, films and theatre (this month’s cover would be Patrick Stewart in Macbeth), news about the plays and his historical world, a massive review section for books, dvds and cds and depending on the cost, a cover mount containing some old audio production. You’d buy it wouldn’t you?


Jon Peake said...

I'm very disappointed about Radio Times. Not only is it failing in circulation quite alarmingly, but under the new editor it has become a magazine that quite cleary hates TV - seeing as every feature has someone or other saying how there's nothing on worth watching and it's all going to hell.

It's become full of dull news stories and while it may do Mad Men on the cover - as did Total TV Guide, the new RT if you ask me - it seems to do TV under sufferance.

The Xmas issue is not very Christmassy this year. Judging by the reaction on the web fans are not best pleased.

Seems to me RT is a habit people find hard to shake off, but once they do, they're liberated.

Stuart Ian Burns said...

Ooh sorry, didn't know that about Mad Men. What's the radio coverage like in Total TV Guide?

Jon Peake said...

It's the only magazine that covers radio apart from RT. It's pretty good.